One of Scotland’s pioneering female legal brains steps up to lead an influential global body on intellectual property and commercialisation in May.
Fiona Nicolson, who is a Partner at Bristows, takes over as President of Licensing Executives Society International (LESI), which has over 9,000 members in 90 countries.
LESI, headquartered in Washington DC, works in the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Europe, to educate businesses and professionals about intellectual property, assessing its value and is working towards setting agreed standards for the management of intellectual property rights. The organisation works with the likes of the European Patent Office, which has a Memorandum of Understanding with LESI, and has organised training courses with CNIPA, the Chinese Patent Office, in Beijing.
She is the first European woman and first Scot to become President of the international organisation created in 1974.
“I’m delighted to become President of an organisation which I have been actively involved with for over 20 years. The increasing importance of intellectual property can be seen every-day as businesses seek to retain the inherent value in their companies. During my tenure, LESI will be working to ensure that all sizes of companies, from the major corporates through to the emerging start-ups, are able to push forward with their strategies for IP and commercialisation. We are all about educating business about the importance of IP, creating international networks for our members, and we are working toward the standardisation of IP management across the globe.’’
Her presidential tenure begins on 26th May during the LESI’s annual international conference in Yokohama in Japan. She will remain President until the conference in May 2020 in Berlin.
Fiona is also keen to involve more women in the sphere of licensing and IP.
“Only a third of our members around the globe are women and I see it as my role to encourage more women to become involved with licensing and commercialisation. In Yokohama we will be launching our Women in Licensing Alliance, to bring more women to the fore in this constantly fascinating and burgeoning professional sphere and to increase diversity generally in our organisation.’’
Fiona was instrumental in developing the IP sector in Scotland. As a junior lawyer with Bird Semple she was seconded to help Glasgow University’s technology transfer department. When she returned to the office she was asked to set up the firm’s IP department. After this, Fiona worked on the IP of the predecessor of Dolly the Sheep at the Roslin Institute with Ron James and PPL Therapeutics in Edinburgh. The project, funded by Prudential, was to breed sheep with an added gene to make milk with the AAT protein to treat cystic fibrosis. Fiona worked on behalf of Scottish Enterprise who part funded the project. She then went on to work with on European research organisations and companies working on world leading scientific projects, including the Francis Crick Institute in London.
Before joining Bristows, Fiona was Head of Intellectual Property practice at Maclay Murray & Spens, in Glasgow, a practice she was very instrumental in building, for 16 years from 1993 until 2009. She helped many companies secure legal agreements on licensing and commercialisation of their intellectual assets.
“In Scotland, in the early 1990s, law firms did not have such sophisticated worldwide connections for IP related matters. It didn’t matter what size of deal you were undertaking, you needed to have an international licensing support network. If clients didn’t have access, then they suffered,’’ she says.
“My interest has always been about how best we can commercialise the brilliant science, research and technology which emanates from universities and innovative businesses,’’ she says.
The trans-national nature of intellectual property took her to London in 2009 when she joined Bristows. The firm, established in 1837, has an international reach as specialists in technology, life sciences, consumer products and industrial markets and a first-class reputation for helping clients protect and extract value from its most valuable assets – their IP. Many of our specialist lawyers hold PhDs and have industry backgrounds which enhances their legal knowledge and practice. Its client base includes Google, AstraZeneca, Diageo, The FT, Sony, WPP, McDonald’s, Capgemini, LVMH and Bupa.
Today Fiona Nicolson is acknowledged as one of the leading IP legal advisers in the UK, working on international projects for a range of clients.